If you find yourself overwhelmed by learning new technology, are in the process of revamping your lessons and entire daily schedule for digital learning, or feel like you're just not good with technology, then you're in the right place. Here are 5 technology tips for back to school while teaching virtually.
1. Overcome Impostor Syndrome
As the go-to tech person at school, I'd often hear the statement, "Sorry, I'm just not good at technology." This is a form of impostor syndrome. You don't have to know everything to be good at technology. None of us know how to use every tech platform, and new tech is coming out all.the.time. What matters is that students learn. If you use a different platform or use technology in a different way than another teacher in your grade level or building, that's just fine. Technology is simply a tool to help students learn, and if your students are learning, that's the key.
2. Google It
If I find myself stuck on a tech problem or am not sure how to navigate something online, I've found that Google is my best friend. I will quite literally type the problem I am experiencing or "how to.." into the Google search bar. I have found that I can often quickly find a solution through a website tutorial or a YouTube video. Even the most complicated problems I've had, I've found a solution through the Google search engine. Before calling a friend or asking the school tech to help, try looking for a solution on Google. I've found it's actually so much quicker and I can move forward with my work in a timely manner.
3. Gain Confidence in One or Two Platforms
There are so many amazing programs out there for teachers and students. From online planners, reading and writing programs, online math games, platforms for hosting content, and so much more that it can become overwhelming. I don't know about you, but it seems like every time I jump on social media I see ads for free subscriptions and new enticing learning platforms. All of those are great, but if you have found something that works, stick with it. Pick only one or two platforms and learn all of the ins-and outs so that you feel confident. Constantly learning new platforms takes time and isn't necessarily more efficient than what you might already be doing.
4. Create Scripted Responses for Commonly Asked Questions
We shouldn't assume that our students are tech-savvy. They might know how to use social media, but that doesn't necessarily mean they know how to send an email or upload a document. Consider making "how-to" videos or create a "cheat-sheet" for your students with visuals for navigating the different platforms. This will save you so much time because you can direct students to the video or cheat-sheet, or use visual cues rather than type out a new response or answer the same questions. This will free up time for you to engage with your students over learning the content rather than just the tech. Screencastomatic or Loom are two free sites that I use for creating quick video tutorials.
5. Keep It Simple
Introduce only one or two platforms for students to use. I would start with the district or school-required programs before adding additional learning platforms or websites. Every time students learn a new platform, it takes away learning time because we have to introduce and explain how to use the site. Plus constantly troubleshooting tech problems results in less time for meaningful discussion and independent learning. Our students end up focusing on how to use the program rather than the content they are needing to learn. One way that I've kept things simple is by creating a series of virtual field trips for my students that are all set up in a similar fashion. They are structured in the same way and once students go through the first virtual field trip, they know what to expect the next time around. You could consider doing the same with your daily schedule and activities so that students know exactly what to expect.
Looking for additional back-to-school tips? Check out these blog posts: